“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
– Dr. Seuss
Two years. Where has the time gone?
I just celebrated the second anniversary of my autologous stem cell transplant. At times, it seems like only yesterday. At other times, I can hardly remember it and have to wonder if it happened at all.
It is human nature to mark the anniversary of events, big and small. It provides us an opportunity to reflect on where we are and where we’ve been. We get to take stock of our accomplishments over time.
Many times, as is the case of the anniversary of my transplant, we get to reflect on an event that shaped our lives and the highlights of the year that passed.
Naturally, the first thing I review when I take stock of the past year is my health and where I stand as a multiple myeloma patient.
Immediately following my transplant, my M-spike was a tiny fraction of where it started, and for the last 12 months, there has been no detectable monoclonal protein in my blood samples. I remain in a full and complete response, and I’m generally very healthy. By all measures, I’m in better health today than I was a year ago.
As a “high-risk” myeloma patient, I feel great reaching 24 months post-transplant in such great condition. Each day, each month, that I remain healthy feels like a great accomplishment.
Of course, the real value in keeping my good health is having the opportunity to experience the joy of my family.
My wife and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary at our favorite fancy restaurant. The next day, we attended an explosive live Pearl Jam “Home Show” in Seattle with one of our sons and his girlfriend. We remain young at heart but enjoy our occasional senior-citizen discounts.
My eldest son welcomed his third child, my third grandchild, into the world this year. She is the sweetest, most adorable girl (since her elder sister, of course). I can’t imagine missing her smile and snuggles as I try to coax her to sleep.
Before my first grandchild arrived, which was also pre-diagnosis, I wasn’t sure I was ready (or old enough) to be a grandparent. Today seeing them grow gives me my greatest joy.
My daughter completed her masters’ studies and was awarded her degree in December. She is also a fantastic roommate. She’s gone through the trials, tribulations, and excitement of remodeling and improving our new shared home. She is raising goats, and she adopted a couple barn cats to keep the mice population in check. It’s been an amazingly fun year in our new home.
The city of Bellingham promoted son number three to a position rewarding his hard work. He has also committed his services to his fellow employees as a union steward during a tough negotiation year.
Salmon are a critical resource in the Pacific Northwest, especially for the native tribes of Puget Sound and the coastal waters. Son number two, a salmon biologist, led a local tribe’s efforts to preserve and enhance salmon runs in their traditional waters.
Obviously, I’m proud of my children and their accomplishments. I adore my three precious grandchildren. I know I share this trait with all parents and grandparents. For me, it highlights the great value of being given another year of successful treatments.
As children, we couldn’t wait for the next event. Be it a birthday, Christmas, or summer vacation, the next exciting event was always in the future.
The special events might change as we get older, or as our health changes, but we don’t ever shed our anticipation of future events.
When I was a child, the time before an anticipated event seemed to crawl. I thought Christmas, or my birthday, would never arrive.
As an adult, this is no longer true, and as a myeloma patient, I view this with a new perspective.
I’m certainly excited about reaching this second birthday active and healthy, but I’m shocked at how quickly it arrived. The cynical gremlin in the back of my head reminds me that not only do the happy future events come and go quickly, so will the less pleasant events. That is the double-edged sword of time I suppose.
Of course, this dilemma is true for all humans. We anxiously await the next big thing, ignoring how the passage of time is bringing us closer to a grand finale.
As cancer patients, we certainly may be more aware of this, but that could be a blessing too. If we’re lucky, we gain a greater appreciation of all the good in our lives. Knowing our time may be limited, we seek opportunities to enjoy that time.
I know in the past I might have said no to getting up and doing something that seemed less enjoyable than what I was doing but gave me a chance to share time with family or friends. While I still don’t always say yes, knowing the finite chances ahead to do these things gives me a new measure to make my decision.
I eagerly await my third birthday next July. I will, as I’ve done today, reflect on the many joys that take place in the next 12 months. It is now my responsibility to fill that time with as many happy memories as possible.
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Photo Credit: (c) 2017 Mark Pouley
I spent my second birthday back at the Twin Lakes and had a first-of-its-kind opportunity to watch five or six juvenile bald eagles share a feast of fish at lakeside. Here is a photo of one of the eagles leaving his perch in the tree to go down to the buffet.